Saturday, February 09, 2008

Letter to Autism Bulletin: A Window into Autism Services in North Carolina

Dr. Mark Carroll is president-elect of the North Carolina chapter of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Carroll wrote to share some of his observations about the autism services needs of people in his area near the Blue Ridge Mountains after reading an article I wrote called "Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders" (see the article here, and a short synopsis here).

Dr. Carroll said the North Carolina Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, is pursuing a new advocacy initiative this year to raise awareness about the need to better serve people with autism spectrum disorders. He gave me permission to publish his letter while emphasizing that the views are his alone, not those of his group. (Note: TEACCH is an approach to delivering autism services that stands for Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children.) Here is the letter:

I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist practicing
community psychiatry mainly in the rural communities
from Winston-Salem, N.C., northwest to the Blue Ridge
Mountains. We are fortunate to have a Developmental
Evaluation Clinic at Wake Forest University and a
TEACCH office in Greensboro.

Still, most of the
local treatment options for autism are in our
schools. The state has a Community Alternatives
Program for developmental disabilities and for
autism, but it has become underfunded with a waiting
list of up to seven years. Many families have no
services at all once the school day is over. Our
state has been privatizing mental health services,
meaning that employers are smaller and more fragile
with a resultant "brain drain." There are fewer and
fewer therapists and skilled workers. For the past
ten years, I have been the lone child and adolescent
psychiatrist serving two counties with a combined
population of nearly 150,000.

Those of us providing professional mental health
services try to keep up hope. There is an election
for governor this year, and a new website designed to inform voters
about candidates and mental health issues.

As you might imagine, it has become a challenge
helping families sort out information when the
internet can seem so much more accessible than local
professionals who may seem not only busy but spread
so thinly. I plan to refer families to your blog,
hoping they will find it to be a balanced and
helpful resource. Who knows, you may even get an
e-mail or two.

Thanks again for your interest and dedication.
Mark B. Carroll, M.D.

1 comment:

Judith U. said...


Thank you for posting this. I think it is so important for all of us to be aware that tremendous disparity exists across the country when it comes to autism diagnosis, treatment and services...